9 cool facts about mountains
This article was written by Zoe Blarowski.
Mountains have captured people’s imaginations since the beginning of time. Ancient Tibetans believed gods lived on every mountain top. And modern-day hikers, climbers and tourists throughout the world are drawn to the mystique of mountains.
These are some neat facts about mountains and what makes them so awe-inspiring.
1. Mountains are formed by movement of the Earth’s crust.
Our planet’s crust is made up of different plates that are regularly moving. These movements are called plate tectonics, and they cause global phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanoes and the creation of mountains.
Volcanic mountains occur along the edges of moving plates. Mountains can also arise when a fault block is raised or dropped, as shown in the diagram below. The higher blocks are called horsts and the lower blocks are grabens. The final way a mountain is made is when one plate moves under another plate, thrusting it upwards.
2. Scientists haven’t agreed on the definition of a mountain.
In Britain and the United States, a mountain requires an elevation of at least 985 feet (300 meters) above sea level. Whereas, the European standard is that a mountain must be 2,950 feet (900 meters) high. An issue with these definitions is that neither of them would include many significant landmasses throughout the world that are valued and respected as mountains.
In his 1936 book Mountain Geography, a British naturalist named Roderick Peattie proposed another view. He suggested mountains are distinguished by their individuality, their ability to command attention and their impact on the human imagination. This may not be scientific, but perhaps it more accurately captures the essence of a mountain.
3. Mount Fuji is part of the world’s first science fiction story.
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is Japan’s first recorded story from the 10th century. The story is about a bamboo cutter who finds a tiny child inside a bamboo stalk. He and his wife raise her like a daughter. They find out later that she’s actually a princess from the moon and her people sent her to Earth to protect her from a celestial war.
When she’s older, the Emperor asks the princess to marry him. She refuses because she wants to go back to the moon. Before she leaves, she gives the Emperor an elixir that would make him immortal. But when he learns she’s gone, he is too depressed to drink it. He tells his men to burn the elixir on Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji. Once lit, it never stops burning. This is reportedly how Mount Fuji became volcanic.
4. The largest mountain in our solar system is on Mars.
The volcanic mountain known as Olympus Mons on planet Mars reaches a towering 16 miles (26 kilometers) high and spreads to 341 miles (550 kilometers) at its base. Mars does not have tectonic plate movement on the planet’s surface like Earth does. This means the magma hotspot underneath Olympus Mons remains fixed, allowing for repeated lava flows that have built on top of each other over time.
5. Mount Kilimanjaro is one of the easiest high-elevation hikes in the world.
Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa, with an elevation of 19,340 feet (5,895 meters). Unlike Mount Everest and most other high-elevation mountains, climbing Kilimanjaro requires no special gear or experience. The main challenge is potential altitude sickness due to the extreme elevation.
Kilimanjaro’s accessibility has invited many record-setting climbers over the years. These are a few highlights.
- The youngest climber was Keats Boyd, an American boy who made it up the mountain at age 7.
- The oldest was Angela Vorobeva at 86 years old.
- Paraplegic Chris Waddell trekked to the summit in 2011 on his custom-built hand-cycle.
- Quadruple amputee Kyle Maynard made it to the top in 2012 without the aid of prosthetics.
- The fastest ascent of Kilimanjaro was by Swiss mountain runner Karl Egloff, who made it up in 4 hours and 56 minutes.
6. The longest mountain chain on Earth is under the ocean.
The mid-ocean ridge is the longest mountain chain on the planet. Around 90 percent of the chain lies under the ocean, and it spans an amazing 40,389 miles (64,000 kilometers) around the globe. The mid-ocean ridge has thousands of active volcanoes that bring magma to the ocean floor as the Earth’s plates move apart. This continuously renews the planet’s surface.
7. Volcanoes are essential to the Earth’s survival.
Volcanic activity causes a great deal of harm around the world, but it is also vital for the planet. Volcanoes allow chemical elements, minerals and other substances from the Earth’s core to come to the surface. These compounds have helped create and support Earth’s atmosphere, waters and soils.
8. Mountains affect weather.
Wind pushes air and clouds upwards when they hit mountain slopes. As the altitude increases, the air pressure decreases. Then, moisture in the clouds condenses and falls as rain. This is what causes rain shadows, where one side of a mountain range receives most of the rain and the other side is significantly drier.
9. Mount Everest is the highest peak on Earth, but it’s not the tallest mountain.
Everest reaches 29,029 feet (8,848 meters), which is the highest altitude of any mountain on Earth. But the tallest from base to top is actually Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Measuring from the ocean floor, Mauna Kea totals an impressive 33,480 feet (10,205 meters). Although, only 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) of those are above water.
The original article is posted on Care2.com.
Zoe Blarowski is a freelance writer with a bachelor’s in horticulture and a diploma in health information. A vegetarian for over two decades, she specializes in writing about health, spirit and great food. She loves to explore the mountains near her home town of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.